IMH changes colour to brighten up lives of inmates

What’s in a colour? A lot, especially if a splash of colour could erase stigma and instil self confidence. The 225-year-old Institute of Mental Health (IMH) will gradually phase out its decades-old green uniforms for patients.

The institute has started to allow patients to wear their own clothes and is planning to replace the existing uniforms with different floral prints and colourful personal wear for them.

P. Poorna Chandrika, IMH’s director, said this was in line with the Mental Healthcare Act 2017. The Act mandates that patients have the right “to wear own personal clothes if they so wished and to not be forced to wear uniforms provided by the establishment”.

“We are in the process of enforcing this rule on campus. We have started allowing patients to wear their personal clothes, and for those who do not have, we are planning to get materials with floral prints and stitch dresses. We are also planning to ask sponsors, who contribute clothing, to give colour materials and dresses such as nightwear for women patients instead of reams and reams of plain materials,” she said.

To be phased out

The plans will start materialising once the institute gets the budget allocation, she said, adding, “We will be doing away with the existing uniforms in a phased manner.” Till now, the 900-odd patients have been wearing uniforms in green, light blue and maroon. While it was long gowns with pants for women, men wore kurta-size shirts and pants. “For many years, we have been purchasing materials of a single colour and stitching uniforms for the patients. We purchase nearly 4,000 metres of materials each quarter to stitch uniforms,” she added. “The stigma associated with mental health is huge. Often, people tend to associate these colours with mental illness. Through this, we can help to do away with this stigma,” Dr. Chandrika said.

As steps to implement this provision of the Act is progressing, the institute has turned its attention to sensitising its employees for this change. “They have been seeing the patients wear the same old uniforms for many years. So, we need to change their mindset. We have started to tell them that patients can be in colour dresses on campus and that they need not worry,” she observed.

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